Intense Drafting Session Ahead For WIPO Delegates Working On Genetic Resources

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Next week, World Intellectual Property Organization delegates will convene for the first committee meeting of 2013. First up is the protection of genetic resources from misappropriation, and the goal of the week is to bridge gaps so they can construct a text that could become an international instrument on protection.

The 23rd session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) will take place from 4-8 February.

Country delegates will start where they left off at the 20th session of the IGC, in February 2012, with a consolidated document [pdf] relating to intellectual property and genetic resources.

“Participants will probably aim to identify the really core issues and try to narrow gaps so that at the end of the week there is a further streamlined version of the document,” Wend Wendland, director of the WIPO Traditional Knowledge Division told Intellectual Property Watch.

It is expected that an expert group comprised of delegates from all regions and an indigenous expert, assisted by facilitators, will work on the document and report back to the plenary twice in the week with updated versions for the full committee’s review and directions, a WIPO source told Intellectual Property Watch.

Pre-Meeting in New Delhi

On 28-29 January, India organised an informal meeting in New Delhi inviting countries to discuss the three areas of the IGC. According to an Indian delegate, many countries attended the meeting, such as Australia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, the United States, Switzerland, Thailand, and the European Union, as well as the WIPO secretariat and IGC Chair Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica.

Discussions in India were not about text negotiations, the delegate said, but was meant to reach some clarity on key issues on the three texts under negotiation in the IGC (genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression) that need to be resolved and gain a better understanding of the views of other countries to help the process. India was encouraged by other members to hold such a meeting and “everybody appreciated it,” the delegate said. A number of other countries showed interest in organising such informal meetings in the future, the delegate added.

According to several sources, main issues to be discussed this week are the mandatory disclosure of origin in patent applications, and sanctions.

Regarding disclosure, a WIPO official told Intellectual Property Watch, several issues have to be tackled, such as what triggers a required disclosure, the scope of the requirement, the content of disclosure, the role of IP offices and sanctions for non-compliance.

On 31 January, Norway submitted an information document [pdf] on its disclosure requirement in Norwegian law.

“There are two main ideas as to the mechanisms that can be used to achieve agreed objectives: a disclosure requirement and/or the use by patent offices of databases and other information systems,” Wendland told Intellectual Property Watch.

Work in Progress

At the 20th session, delegates reached their primary target by agreeing on a single text, although the consolidated document bears a mention by Chair McCook confirming that the text “represents a work in progress and is without prejudice to the positions of the participants.”

The text contains five policy objectives, some with brackets. These are titled: Compliance with International/National laws relating to prior informed consent, mutually agreed terms, ABS laws and disclosure; Prevent [intellectual property rights] [patents] from being granted in error [in bad faith]; Ensuring intellectual property [patent] offices have the required

information to make proper decisions in granting intellectual property [patent] rights; Relationship between international, [regional] agreements, instruments and treaties; and Role of Intellectual Property System in promoting innovation and knowledge, technology transfer.

Following the policy objectives are nine articles, with a list of options and sub-options in each.

At the 20th session, a group of countries including Japan, Korea, Norway and the United States submitted a “Joint Recommendation on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge,” followed by a second version at the end of the session to include the delegation of Canada (IPW, WIPO, 23 February 2012).

Many delegations such as the African Group, the European Union, and the Development Agenda Group, had at that time asked that the discussion on the joint recommendation be postponed to a future session of the IGC.

The same joint recommendation was resubmitted on 16 January to the WIPO secretariat as a working document for the 23rd session of the IGC. The document, which aims at preventing erroneous patents on genetic resources, is a soft instrument providing recommendations and leaving measures to be taken to national legislations “as appropriate”.

Developing countries have been pushing for an international binding instrument while some developed countries have favoured a soft instrument.

This session of the IGC is exclusively devoted to genetic resources. The next session will be in April, on traditional knowledge. The last meeting of the year, in July, will meet for eight days, and will address traditional cultural expressions for five of those days and then use the remaining three days to revisit the two other legs of the IGC’s mandate, namely traditional knowledge and genetic resources, and make a recommendation to the annual General Assembly taking place in October 2013. That General Assembly will take stock of the progress made on all three areas and decide on convening a diplomatic conference (a high-level treaty negotiation).

A WIPO official told Intellectual Property Watch that the WIPO Voluntary Fund is urgently in need of funds in order to continue funding accredited indigenous and local community participants. The secretariat has recently launched an “Indigenous Portal” on its website to facilitate access to information of particular interest to indigenous peoples and local communities, he said.

An indigenous panel [pdf] will take place on 4 February from 11:00-13:00 at WIPO, with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, and several panellists.

 

Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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